If you want to be in the know, you have to go

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By Alice Du Pont

There are people who just won't pay attention. For whatever reason, things that affect their lives are ignored until it's too late.

I can't count the number of times citizens have shown up at county commission meetings wanting to subdivide property, change zoning or change the face of their property, whether it's a half acre or 3,000 acres.

They look as if they've been clobbered with a stick when they're told to do what they're asking they must get permission from the state through a land use amendment, meaning the state must approve of the change through the Department of Community Affairs.

Almost invariably they say things to commissioners like, "It's my property. Why can't I do what I want?" or "When did all of this happen? It's not right."

The series of meetings that have been planned by the county’s growth management department are very important. Even if you think you're never going to change how you use your property, it’s equally important to know what your neighbors plan to do with their properties.

Will you wake up one morning to the sounds of heavy equipment about to begin construction on a 500-apartment complex? It's not out of the question. If the comprehensive plan allows for multiple dwellings near you, it could happen. All I can say is if you don't attend any of these meetings and you live in the unincorporated areas of the county, it is in your best interest to make the time to attend a meeting.

There is no need to be intimidated by these meetings; citizens are encouraged to ask questions. Even if you don't think you have a question, a comment from someone might spark something that may not have been considered.

Years ago, when the state initially mandated that counties create and submit a comprehensive plan to DCA, only a handful of people attended the series of meetings. Most of them were landowners who had large tracts of land. But because they made up the bulk of those in attendance, their views were heard and given a lot of weight, not because of who they were but because they came to the meetings.

So when citizens started showing up after the plan was submitted and accepted and were told that their request was not in line with the plan, they were upset, to say the least. And on top of that, they had to wait seven years until the next cycle before DCA would review their request.

But all this could have been avoided if they had simply attended a few meetings.

Sometimes we are the makers of our own problems because we are a little inconvenienced. I certainly hope that these meetings are packed because it might make a difference in what you can and cannot do with your own property.